The Jewish Legal System: Criminal Law: Scheming Witnesses:
Why does the Torah use the singular in Deut. 19:19 in speaking about a "scheming witness" (ed zomem), when we know that two witnesses are
The context makes it clear that the passage is speaking about two
witnesses, since the first verse of the passage (15) specifies that
two or more witnesses are necessary. Verse 16 does use the singular,
but verse 17 immediately says "The two men shall stand...", and the
Talmud (Shavuos 30a) explains that the two men are the witnesses.
Rashi on verse 17 adds "Whenever it says 'ed', the Torah is speaking
about two". The Talmud (Sanhedrin 28a) also says "Witnesses can
be discredited as "schemers" (zomemin) only if both of them are
discredited". The passage might have been clearer if it had been
worded in the plural; this is a case where the Oral Torah clarifies
the meaning of the Written Torah.
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